Alice Cooper
Welcome 2 My Nightmare

Alice Cooper promised a sequel, and he delivered in a surprising way. The shock rock pioneer went into the studio with the intention to record a follow-up to 2008’s creepy serial killer concept album Along Came a Spider. Once he got in the studio with long-time producer and collaborator Bob Ezrin, they decided to delve farther back into his catalog to the record that is, arguably, his finest moment, Welcome to My Nightmare.

I admit the move left me puzzled. It’s a tried and true recipe for failure. Usually a failing band slaps the title of its most popular work on its latest album and puts a “2” behind it to draw some interest from fans who have wandered away. It’s never a good idea because it creates a certain expectation that the new record can never match. In fact, most of them suck.

Of course, there are a few differences between most bands and Alice Cooper. First and foremost, Alice Cooper has never really faltered. Sure, he’s had a few off records, but for the most part, he’s never completely disappointed. That doesn’t change here. Secondly, he’s Alice fucking Cooper. He can do whatever the hell he wants … and make it work. Or, in the case of Welcome 2 My Nightmare, turn it into a moment of mad genius.

You often hear bands describe their latest effort as “(insert most popular record here) updated for the 21st century,” or something to that effect. In the case of Welcome 2 My Nightmare, that statement is actually pretty accurate. It’s been more than 35 years since the original Welcome to My Nightmare hit the scene, and this record is truly like a modern version of that one. The music here is all over the map. There are dark, classical-tinged Halloween-style numbers, there are all-out garage rockers, there are poppy ballads, there’s a Vaudeville piece, a surf-rock song, there are even a couple of country songs and a rap song – all, of course, with Alice’s signature sense of black humor stamped across them. It’s what every good Alice Cooper record should be – a three-ring circus with Alice as the evil, yet likeable ringmaster.

For an album promised to be a worse nightmare than the original, things start strangely. After a horror movie-worthy piano piece, opener “I Am Made of You” is actually kind of a heartfelt ballad with some poppy vocal effects here and there. It’s like the sweet part of the dream before things go horribly wrong. Things start to go a little darker with the high-energy rocker “Caffeine,” one of the more memorable tracks, as our main character fights sleep, and it overcomes him on track 3, “The Nightmare Returns.” A wicked nursery rhyme melody gives way to a darker classical piano and some Savatage or Trans-Siberian Orchestra-like flourishes. It’s brief but powerful.

Like most of his works since the 1980s, there’s also a large list of guest stars. Some you’d expect – Alice’s disciple Rob Zombie, Zombie’s guitarist John 5, and former Cooper bass player Kip Winger. Others are a little surprising, particularly pop singer Ke$ha and country singer Vince Gill.

Gill makes his first appearance on the fourth track, “A Runaway Train,” another of the album’s best moments. It’s a driving country-tinged trip on the rails to hell, and the country star gives a chicken-pickin’ shred lesson on the guitar solos. He appears again toward the end of the record on “I Gotta Get Outta Here,” a great track that blends country with some Tom Petty-like sounds. It makes call backs to all of the previous songs on the record and gives Gill a chance for a more soulful, sincere solo – well, as sincere as anything on this manic masterpiece gets.

Some of the brightest moments come on the offbeat numbers. The Vaudevillian thumper “Last Man on Earth” is absolutely one of the best songs on the record despite having no real rock elements at all. You can almost visualize Alice in his top hat and ragged tails addressing a crowd of rubes from the back of a wagon as he delivers the tune.

Other forays into stranger musical stylings have mixed results. “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever” shouldn’t work at all. It is, as the title suggest, a disco tune that features Alice rapping. It ends up being a lot of fun though, in a Weird Al‘s evil twin sort of way. The surf rocker “Ghouls Gone Wild” is the album’s weak spot, getting kind of annoying after a few listens, though I admit it could just be my dislike of surf rock. Somewhere in between is the synth-pop “What Baby Wants,” featuring Ke$ha. I disliked it the first few times through, but it’s grown on me. If not for the slasher movie imagery in the lyrics, it wouldn’t be out of place on some cheesy 1980s soundtrack. It’s not even close to being one of the better tracks, but I like it more every time I hear it.

Of course, there is more typical Alice Cooper fare to be found here. The lead single “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” is an old-school rock ‘n’ roll number with a big, memorable hook that’s a lot of fun. “Something to Remember Me By” is the record’s answer to “Only Women Bleed.” It’s not bad, but not likely to become the classic the song from the first record is. Then there’s the flashy showman number, “The Congregation,” where we’re introduced to the hierarchy of hell. It’s a great song with a mix of darkness and humor.

The only truly disturbing moment on the record is the story of a real-life monster, “When Hell Comes Home.” It’s an alternately heavy and creepy piece that focuses on an abusive father from the viewpoint of his child. It’s particularly chilling when you realize it’s something that happens everyday in the real world.

There is, appropriately, a little history on Welcome 2 My Nightmare. Three of the 13 tracks on the album – “A Runaway Train,” “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” and “When Hell Comes Home” – feature guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith, members of the original Alice Cooper band. Their appearance is somewhat ironic since Welcome to My Nightmare was considered Alice’s first “solo” record without those former members of his band. Themes from the original album also run through this one, most notably the intro to “Welcome to My Nightmare” echoed in the intro to “The Congregation,” and the instrumental album closer “The Underture,” which blends themes from both records together.

More than anything, what makes Welcome 2 My Nightmare so great, though, is that it’s obvious to the listener that Alice is having a blast on the record – and his long-time fans are all in on the joke. If you’re looking for a full-on heavy rock album along the lines of Brutal Planet or Along Came a Spider, you’ll be disappointed. But fans of Cooper’s classic 1970s work should be thrilled and excited by the return of the twisted ringmaster who commands the ability to take such disparate elements and blend them into a cohesive, rocking unit. Welcome 2 My Nightmare is an amazing record and the rare sequel that’s absolutely worthy of the name on the cover, which just goes to show that no matter how bad most sequels are, every now and then, you get an “Empire Strikes Back.”

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
September 26th, 2011

Comments

  1. Commented by: DK777

    I agree ONE HUNDRED percent, FP. Only those Cooper fans who narrowly judge him as ONLY a hard-rock/metal performer will be disappointed.

    And you hit it on the head in terms of Alice’s 40-plus years of appeal: he can–and so often does–whatever the hell he wants to. Well put, indeed.

    How cool would it be if he toured both albums, back to back, plus a couple of the indispensable hits??? Show of a lifetime? Yeah, most likely!


  2. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    this dude’s still alive?


  3. Commented by: Cynicgods

    @Nick: Go listen to some deathcore, kid.

    @Fred: Excellent review, man. You need to be pretty open-minded to take all the genres Mr. Cooper employs in this one. He uses practically everyone at his disposal to churn out a great record. Singers, composers, hell, even his old band is there to help out. Ozzy could learn a thing or two from good ol’ Alice.

    Empire Strikes Back indeed!


  4. Commented by: DK777

    Anyone notice that the drum track on “What Baby Wants” is, basically, the same as that from Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”?

    Or should no one be paying attention at that level???


  5. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    I’ll stick with the real rock and roll shockmasters from this era, like Iggy Pop and Arthur Brown, thank you very much. Alice Cooper’s a lame-o republican golf-weenie.


  6. Commented by: Cynicgods

    I enjoy the Stooge and the God of Hellfire’s work very much but Alice has cemented his place in the rock ‘n’ roll pantheon. You may dislike him but you can’t deny it. How Cooper conducts himself in real life is his business.


  7. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    it’s his business, yeah, but it’s all over TV how un-rock he is these days. he makes no secret of what a goon he is.

    he was never that great to begin with. there, I said it.


  8. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    and also, I’m pushing 30. your insinuation that I’m some callow little 15 year old mosh victim that’s jud-judding away to Whitechapel is pretty lame, son.


  9. Commented by: gabaghoul

    “son”
    lol


  10. Commented by: Old Pick Axe

    This album smacks of the weirdness that was Alice Cooper in the 70’s. And that’s a compliment. I’ve been a fan of Uncle Alice’s since 1991…and I LOVE this album. Period.


  11. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Everyone’s un-rock when the cameras aren’t there or the live show’s over. Iggy and Arthur Brown included. Alice doesn’t care about it and he has always said his stage persona is a character he created. He’s a living legend, much like Lemmy or King Diamond. But hey, to each his/her own.

    You come across as a 15 year-old kid with your juvenile rants, “son”. My mistake. By the way, aren’t you the guy who said some time ago he was gonna stop visiting this site because they cover Christian bands? What made you decide the site is worthy of your magnificent presence?


  12. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    that was that other dude. I’m not a fan of christian music at all, and I make no secret of it, but that other guy said he was gonna leave. near as I can tell, he hasn’t come back.


  13. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Ok then, that wasn’t you. Point in your favor. :P

    You still come off as a 15-year old kid. Nyah nyah!!

    Truth be told, I’m just messing with ya, Nick-o. It’s fun when you’re bored at work. But I do love Alice Cooper and many of his records. That much is true. Agree to disagree?


  14. Commented by: Clauricaune

    Loving this album too. Amazing he can still write something of this quality after 35 years and 17 albums in more less the same style.


  15. Commented by: GW

    Good review. I saw Alic in Greensboro late 70s. King of the Silver Screen, supporting Welcome to my Nightmare.

    Mind blowing. Just an awesome show, with the orig. band, Vincent Price, Black Widows, Mobster Chickens, Guillotine, Cyclops… just fricking fantastic. Alice knows how to entertain. He is a master showman, even with some weak albums here or there.


  16. Commented by: Old Pick Axe

    “He’s Alice Fucking Cooper, he can do whatever the hell he wants!”

    Truer words were NEVER spoken.


Leave a Reply

Privacy notice: When you submit a comment, your creditentials, message and IP address will be logged. A cookie will also be created on your browser with your chosen name and email, so that you do not need to type them again to post a new comment. Your post and details will also go through an automatic spam check via Akismet's servers and maybe held up for further approval. We purge our logs from your meta-data at frequent intervals.

  • Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race
  • Warcrab - Damned In Endless Night
  • Evoked - Ravenous Compulsion
  • Blut Aus Nord - Hallucinogen
  • Fit For An Autopsy - The Sea of Tragic Beasts
  • Aggravator - Aggravator
  • Nile - Vile Nilotic Rites
  • Equilibrium - Renegades
  • Pentacle - Spectre of the Eight Ropes
  • As I Lay Dying - Shaped By Fire
  • Creeping Death - Wretched Illusions
  • In Pain - The Sound of Death
  • Flesh Tomb - Torn From The Womb of The Sky EP
  • Infant Annihilator -  The Battle of Yaldabaoth
  • Sanguisugabogg - Pornographic Seizures EP